(loosely inspired by Deborah Madison)
1 pound dried pasta, such as fusilli or penne
½ pound broccoli florets, from about one head of broccoli
1-2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
¾-1 cup basil leaves, tightly packed
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
½ cup, 2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
extra grated parmesan, salt and pepper to taste
1 cup pasta cooking water
Make the broccoli pesto pasta:
Cook the pasta according to the package directions checking at about 2 minutes before for doneness, reserving one cup pasta cooking water just before draining. Drain well, cool and set aside.
Trim the flowerettes off of the head of broccoli and cut into 2” pieces. You may need to halve or quarter some of the pieces. Some of the tender stems are fine to use too.
Place a colander in the sink. Fill a medium size pot with about 2 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Add a teaspoon of salt. Add the broccoli, stirring to cover with the water and boil until bright green and just tender enough to pierce with a fork, about 3 minutes. Immediately drain in the colander to stop it from cooking further, and rinse with cold water until the broccoli is cool. Let drain. You can use some paper towels to dry them off as well.
Using a food processor fitted with the steel blade, turn it on and drop the whole cloves of garlic through the feed tube to mince. Stop the processor, and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the broccoli, pine nuts and cheese to the machine and process until they’re finely chopped, about 1- 2 minutes. Add the basil, salt and pepper. Process again until finely chopped. scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Turn on the machine, and drizzle in ½ cup of the olive oil through the feed tube, processing until smooth. Taste for seasoning, adding extra salt, pepper and oil, if desired.
Stir the pesto into the cooked, cooled pasta, adding some pasta cooking water. Start with about ¼ cup, and add up to ½ cup to make the sauce looser and creamier. Taste for seasoning. Serve with extra grated cheese.
The pesto can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, Or frozen for 3 months. If freezing, no need to leave out the cheese or top with oil. It will happily keep its bright green color.
Makes 4-6 servings. YUM!
To toast the nuts:
Have a bowl ready nearby for the toasted nuts. In a small, dry skillet (do not use nonstick), add the nuts, and over medium heat, stir them constantly until they are fragrant and browned. Immediately remove them to the bowl so they don’t burn. Cool completely. It’s best to toast them on top of the stove, because in the oven you can burn them very easily, and pignoli nuts are expensive! Keep any extra untoasted nuts in the freezer for up to a year.
1. Make sure the broccoli is cut in the same size pieces, so they cook evenly.
2. Once the broccoli is cooked, immediately pour it into a colander and shock it. That means stopping the cooking to set the color. Usually ice water is recommended, but I never have ice in my house, so I just use the cold water from the tap.
3. Only use the basil leaves. No stems.
4. I know that the real way to make pesto is with a mortar and pestle, but I prefer using a food processor. It’s the easiest, quickest way, even better than a blender. Although if a blender is what you have, that will work fine too.
5. Remember to reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water. It’s easy to forget to do it.
6. Pignoli nuts are classic, and my favorite. But you can use walnuts or almonds instead. See below to toast the nuts.